Day At The Track

Chasing that winning feeling at Humbletonian

09:31 AM 29 Aug 2018 NZST
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Maryborough,Harness racing
Maryborough racing action

Maryborough’s final straight presents as a field of dreams for Thursday’s Humbletonian, when 10 of the 95 contestants will break their maiden status.

The combatants have collectively contested 679 races without success, but that could all change with the Harness Breeders Victoria-sponsored day and the wait will make the work all the more worthwhile.

None have been there and not done that more times than Rebecca Wardlaw’s much-loved mare Sucralose, the Village Jolt four-year-old who’s gone oh-so-close with 10 placings in her 42 starts.

“She’s been knocking on the door,” trainer Wardlaw said. “She was a real puller, she would just over race all the time and it has taken a lot to get her to settle.

“She would always throw in a gallop right when you need her not too. She’s so close to winning it’s not funny. She loves to run, she just can’t quite get everything right on the day. But she’s just an awesome little horse.”

The mare has been in Wardlaw’s keeping for all her starts, having been snapped up after Rebecca’s husband, Stephen, and Wallace Van Niekerk, his workmate at Pyrenees Hay Co-Operative in Avoca, hatched the plan amid their long and varied chats during late-night shifts.

It’s a plan that seems certain to soon reap significant dividends, with Sucralose finishing top four in his last six starts including a second placing in the hands of Chris Alford at Kilmore on July 25.

“At Kilmore I thought that one was going to be ours,” Wardlaw said. “We were so close.”

The trainer’s optimism extends into Thursday’s Humbletonian, when Sucralose will contest race eight – the Harness Breeders Victoria Vicbred Pace – with Mark Hayes to take the reins from gate nine.

“I think she’s got a pretty good chance on Thursday,” Wardlaw said. “I prefer her on the outside, hopefully she will run through behind Chris Alford and be somewhere close when it counts at the end.”

For those who do salute the rewards will be many. All are Vicbred eligible, so victory for those aged two, three and four would secure their full $7000 bonuses, and in addition Harness Breeders Victoria will gift a $250 bonus to each winner’s breeder and the Victorian Square Trotting Association a further $250 to its successful members who are on course.

“I think it’s fantastic,” Wardlaw said. “We’ve got one more crack at it and are hoping to break through. It’s a great initiative at a great track that gives everyone a good opportunity.”

In addition to breaking her horse’s maiden the second last day of the season also gives Wardlaw a final chance to break a maiden of her own, having been winless in her 111 starts in 2017-18.

“I have had a tough year. If I was to break through I’d be ecstatic,” she said.

While success hasn’t been forthcoming it hasn’t dulled her families’ passion for the sport. Her daughter, Tamara, serves as a Clerk of the Course and husband, Stephen, has for 30 years been a track attendant at Maryborough.

“We run our own farm, cut our own chaff and grow our own hay and then harness racing is what we do as a family. Some days it’s hard, but we wouldn’t do anything else.”


Michael Howard

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